Deer Management: Overview

Wildlife habitat in SVT’s service area is threatened by growing deer populations. SVT has identified deer management as a high-priority issue because of the high deer density in our region and the negative impact deer are having on our forests.

SVT is also part of a larger regional effort of the Metrowest Conservation Alliance to improve forest health through controlling overabundant deer populations.

For many conservation organizations, hunting is an acceptable tool for protecting the health of an ecosystem that is suffering due to a certain species. See, for example:

SVT permits limited hunting of deer on some of our properties to reduce the deer population to a sustainable level. SVT's Board of Directors developed a deer-management policy that recognizes that hunting, fishing, and trapping are traditional nature-based activities that often promote a greater appreciation of nature and wildlife as well as provide an additional wildlife management tool.

See also:

Why Is Deer Management Necessary?

Deer densities in the SVT region are higher than recommended (see statistics below). Abundant scientific evidence demonstrates that high deer densities severely degrade habitat values on conservation lands through excessive browsing.  A single deer can eat ~4,200 seedlings per day. That is about 7 pounds of fresh vegetation a day.

Deer over-browsing:

  • stunts forest regeneration,
  • endangers native plant species,
  • eliminates habitat for ground-nesting and shrub-nesting birds
  • increase invasive plant populations, and
  • can have long-term consequences on soil and vegetation.

In addition, when the landscape is not able to support the deer population, deer resort to eating vegetation that they typically would not eat. This can lead to increased deer malnutrition and disease, such as Chronic Wasting Disease.

A successful deer management program will reduce the deer population to a sustainable level where forest understories will be able to develop, and wildlife and plant biodiversity will increase.

For more about the problems caused by overbrowsing, see:

Deer Densities in the SVT Region

Deer densities in SVT’s service area are estimated to be 10 to 30 deer per square mile.

In comparison, MassWildlife recommends a target density of only

  • 6 to 8 deer per square mile in the eastern part of our region (east of I-495)
  • 12 to 18 per square mile in the western part of our region.

These recommended levels take into account how many deer the land can support while maintaining a functional ecological balance.